Monday, June 16, 2014

Are conventions worth it?

Having returned last month from the RT Book Lovers convention in New Orleans, and finished entering my costs for the convention into my expense tracking software, I’m evaluating if and how much the convention has affected my sales.

The answer isn’t heartening.

I love conventions, particularly RT Book Lovers which is so much fun. I got to wear costumes, interact with readers, bond with my fellow authors, and in general have a great time. When you consider that I even missed one day of the convention due to illness (I picked up a nasty bug and ended up in bed all day Friday, only returning to the convention the next day for the book signing) and still consider the time I spent there a success in many ways.

But the cold hard facts are that going to a convention does not automatically result in the sale of additional books, at least not of books that have been released for some time.

I have a diagram here that demonstrates this:

This is hard data, the sales graph off of Kindle Digital Publishing for one of the titles that I promoted the most at the convention. About a third of the items I gave out had a business card of this book, and it's cover was the poster I used for my bin on promo lane which I suspect most of the attendees of the convention passed by at one time or another. So if any book should show a rise in sales due to exposure at the convention, it should be this one.

The convention period is shown as a rectangle placed over the graph. If conventioneers were so entranced by my cover or promotional material to buy the book you would expect to see a rise of sales during the convention or at least in the two to three weeks following... and it is true that Saturday was a pretty good day. But overall number of sales before and after the convention for that one title remains fairly flat. If my giveaways were generating additional sales, you would expect to see some change and there is none. The rest of my titles show the same thing... exposure at the convention shows no effect on sales.

Which is why I don’t look to this kind of convention to sell existing books. I might possibly do better by putting the money into Facebook ads where the immediacy of sales is possible. Viewer sees title, cover, and blurb that interest them... they click a button and the book downloads onto their phone. 
That’s the real way books sell these days.

So I don't really go to RT Book Lovers to sell books. I go because I have fun and if I didn’t when would I have a chance to wear a halo? And at these conventions I get a chance to interact with fellow authors in ways I rarely can online. People will tell you to your face things they won't say in an email and a lot of what I've learned has done me well later on.

As for sales? I do what I feel comfortable doing for give-aways and hope for the best. For those who went to the convention, did you see any rise in sales as a result? If so, what did you do at the convention that I didn't?



Ana Morgan said...

I have never attended an RT convention. Melding your report with others that I have read inclines me to go for the fun, and not the sales.
It sounded like there was some controversy over where authors' promo tables were located, as well as the table space alloted to each author.

Janet Miller said...

There were a few issues with the book signing in that they did both independent signings and traditional signings at the same time in two adjacent ballrooms. This meant two rooms for customers to search for authors during the three hours of the signing. I was in the traditional room which was well trafficked and sold a couple of books.

My roommate was in the independent room and the issues there were that the Fire Marshal had insisted some tables be removed in the half-hour before the signing could start. As a result everyone in that room were crowded closer together.

As for Promo Lane, usually they line the hotel's hallways with tables and that's the space you get assigned. But this time they had it in a room of its own. Not sure why, but it did mean less traffic from non-convention goers.

I didn't notice any change in the size of the Promo Lane allotments, only the placement of it. I still gave away everything I brought with me to give-away.


Ana Morgan said...

Then you did well!

Kathrynn Dennis said...

This is really helpful, Janet! Something I suspected for a long time. Conventions don't help sales! Just go have fun with friends and fellow authors.

The chance to re-charge as an author there, is priceless!

Janet Miller said...

It is more than just fun. I found a writing partner at a convention. I learned about getting my rights back to some backlist books I had. But giving away little bits of paper with a book cover on it? Does not translate to sales even when attached to a finger laser.